The first Democratic debate, night 1
Julián Castro and Beto O’Rourke clashed over immigration, with the two Texas Democrats going after each other on whether or not coming across the border illegally should be a crime.
The back and forth between Castro and O’Rourke was – by far – the most direct and personal clashes of the first hour of the Democratic debate.
Castro’s immigration plan, which he rolled out earlier this year, would decriminalize crossing the border by repealing Section 1325 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which was used by the George W. Bush administration to apply a criminal violation -- as opposed to a civil infraction -- to anyone entering the United States illegally. The decades-old law was used by the Bush administration to attempt to curb the number of illegal entrances into the United States, something that Castro wrote needs to end.
O’Rourke has said he does not support doing that but does want a “comprehensive re-write” of immigration laws and backs plans to “ensure you don’t criminalize those who are seeking asylum.”
Castro jumped on these comments, telling O’Rourke that “if you did your homework on this issue” he would understand that what he is talking about is different than what Castro is proposing.
Castro brought up comments O’Rourke made on CNN earlier this month, when he told CNN’s Jake Tapper that he did not think the law should be repealed.
“Let’s be very clear, the reason that they are separating these little children from their families is that they are using section 1325 of that act, which criminalized crossing over the border, to incarcerate the parents and then separate them,” Castro said. “Some of us on this stage have called to end that section, to terminate it, some, like Congressman O’Rourke, have not.”
Castro added: “And I want to challenge all of the candidates to do that. I just think it is a mistake and I think if you truly want to change the system then we have to repeal that section.”
The second half of the debate didn't seem to go quite as planned.
As NBC's Chuck Todd asked the Democratic candidates about their plans on guns, talking could be heard in the background.
That prompted some of the candidates to say that their mics were on.
Todd quickly replied, "Yeah, everybody's mics are on."
He went on to say, "I think we had a little mic issue," and carried on with his question.
But the mic issues continued, so Todd was forced to cut to a commercial break.
Todd pointed out that his colleagues had not turned off their mics backstage.
President Trump, ever the TV producer, slammed NBC News and MSNBC for the "technical breakdown" immediately after.
- Elizabeth Warren was proven to be the pace setter in the first 25% of the debate tonight. It started on her economic message, Amy Klobuchar was then asked about her free college plan, Cory Booker asked about breaking up tech companies. Warren policies were setting the debate framework for the first half of the first half.
- Bill De Blasio is showing what it means to go all New York in a debate! He is all in on trying to get a slice of that Sanders/Warren battle for the progressive/left wing of the party. He went after Beto O’Rourke, Booker, Klobuchar all in his first answer. He talked directly to Trump voters on immigration – blaming the corporations for their anxiety, not the immigrants.
- Klobuchar reminded the audience of female power. She brushed back Jay Inslee on choice with her line that “there are three women on this stage” who have fought for abortion rights. A simple but effective reminder that there are more women on this debate stage and the one tomorrow night than you’ve ever seen on a presidential debate stage.
- The Julián Castro vs. Beto O’Rourke tension comes alive over immigration. That was Texas-size tension. Castro’s goal was to poke holes in O’Rourke on immigration – an issue that he has used at the center of his political identity.
- Klobuchar made sure to invoke Trump in nearly every single answer. This seems to be her electability play – showing she can take the fight to the President on every answer.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar has often stood as something of a reality check to some of the rosiest proposals offered by her Democratic rivals, telling audiences in recent months that it’s just not possible to offer free college, Medicare-for-All and more.
But tonight, Klobuchar seemed to have a harder time saying no.
At a CNN Town Hall meeting in February, Klobuchar delivered a memorable line on free college, saying: “If I was a magic genie and could afford to give that to everyone, I would.”
She was not as punchy tonight. She did not draw sharp distinctions on free college with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who stood only a few feet away.
On health care, Klobuchar did stand up to several of her rivals and say it was neither feasible nor wise to eliminate private insurance. It was one of the biggest distinctions of the night, even though she decided against calling out any of her competitors by name.
“I am just simply concerned about kicking half of America off of their health insurance in four years,” Klobuchar said, noting that so many people are happy with their employer-provided health insurance.
A few moments later, when Warren pushed back and said politicians simply have to fight harder to realize real “structural change,” Klobuchar stood silent. She raised her hand to try and object, but couldn’t jump back into the conversation.
Klobuchar made the calculation that at this moment, with Warren rising, tough medicine may not be what the party’s progressive activists are thirsting for.
So she settled for this down-home line instead, calling some of the proposals: “All foam and no beer.”
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who trails in the polls, got off a zinger early in the debate that hit President Trump, the man everyone on the stage hopes to face in 2020 and elevated Inslee's signature issue: climate change.
Trump "says wind turbines cause cancer. We know they cause jobs," Inslee said to applause.
Trump, whose disdain for wind power dates to his battles with Scottish officials over a plan to build turbines in view of one his golf resorts, suggested earlier this year that the noise from wind turbines “causes cancer.”
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, during a discussion about abortion rights, made note of the women on stage who have fought for those rights.
Her comment came after Washington Gov. Jay Inslee took credit for being the “only candidate here who had passed a law protecting a woman’s right of reproductive health and health insurance.”
Inslee jumped into the conversation by saying, “It should not be an option in the United States of America for any insurance company to deny women coverage for the exercise of their right of choice.”
Inslee went on to describe himself as a candidate “who has actually advanced the ball.”
Klobuchar, in a quick one liner clearly directed at Inslee, said, “I just want to say there are three women up here who have fought pretty hard for a woman’s right to choose.”
Beto O'Rourke said that Congress passed "A $2 trillion tax cut” that favored corporations which were sitting on record piles of cash and the very wealthiest in the country at a time of historic wealth inequality."
Facts First: Though there are a variety of estimates projecting the cost of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, according to the Congressional Budget Office, O’Rourke’s statement appears to be roughly accurate.
Last year, the Congressional Budget Office projected that when incorporating the additional debt service costs, the tax cut would add $1.9 trillion to the deficit over the ten-year window.
But other cost estimates varied. According to an estimate by Congress' Joint Committee on Taxation before the law passed, it would cost $1.4 trillion over ten years, or just over $1 trillion when incorporating a broader look at its economic impacts.
A year after the law passed, the conservative-leaning Tax Foundation found that the cost was even less, at $1.47 trillion on a conventional basis and $448 billion over the ten-year window when taking into account its effect on the economy.